Ford discloses DOJ investigation over emissions certifications

PHOTO: In this Feb. 14, 2019, file photo a wheel on a 2019 Ford Expedition 4x4 is displayed at the 2019 Pittsburgh International Auto Show in Pittsburgh.PlayGene J. Puskar/AP, FILE
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The U.S. Justice Department is investigating Ford Motor Co.'s emissions certification process, the company said Friday.

The news about the criminal investigation was revealed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

In February, Ford disclosed that it would investigate concerns about its internal processes for emissions testing in the U.S.

"As previously reported, the company has become aware of a potential concern involving its U.S. emissions certification process. This matter currently focuses on issues relating to road load estimations, including analytical modeling and coastdown testing. We voluntarily disclosed this matter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board on February 18, 2019 and February 21, 2019, respectively," the filing said.

Ford said it was "fully cooperating" with all government agencies and the matter is "still in the preliminary stages."

"We cannot predict the outcome, and we cannot provide assurance that it will not have a material adverse effect on us," the automaker said in the filing.

Ford sought to differentiate the company from other carmakers that have been involved in emissions testing scandals who admitted to deliberately misleading investors and regulators, using software known as "defeat devices."

"We are working with and cooperating with a number of agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the California Air Resources Board and the Department of Justice about potential concerns involving Ford’s process for estimating road load," Kim Pittel, Ford's vice president of sustainability, environment and safety engineering, said in a statement. "The investigation and potential concerns do not involve the use of defeat devices in our products."

She added, "The Department of Justice contacted us earlier this month to let us know that they had opened a criminal investigation. Ford is fully cooperating with the government, and we’ll keep them posted on what we’re finding through our investigation and technical review."

Volkswagen AG admitted to cheating on its emissions testing in the U.S. after the EPA discovered that many VW cars sold in the country had a "defeat device," or software in diesel engines that could tell when the cars were being tested and altering its emissions performance to manipulate results for certification.

In March, the SEC filed a complaint against Volkswagen and the German automaker's former CEO Martin Winterkorn for allegedly defrauding investors while making false and misleading statements to government regulator and consumers.